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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years

IX: The First Crusade: Constantinople to Antioch,   pp. 280-[307] PDF (10.6 MB)

Page 281

east and of the emir Uasan of Cappadocia. It was the emperor's aim to follow
the traditions of Byzantine diplomacy and play off the Turkish princes against
each other until the Christians could collect a force strong enough to deal
them a deadly blow. Inthe meantime it was essential to avoid any premature
and precipitate attack that might frighten the Turks into union.1 
 The first crusaders to reach Constantinople presented a problem to the emperor's
police rather than to his politicians. In the middle of July 1096, Walter
Sans-Avoir ("the Penniless") arrived before the capital at the head of two
or three thousand French peasants. This was the vanguard of the huge disorganized
rabble that the preaching of Peter the Hermit and his fellows had urged eastward.
As the preceding chapter has indicated, the Peasants' or People's Crusade
had not been willing to wait while the princes organized their expeditions;
and Walter and his Frenchmen had been more impatient even than Peter the
Hermit, whom they had left at Cologne. Walter had had trouble with the Byzantine
authorities when he entered the empire at Belgrade, but by the time that
he approached Constantinople his company was satisfactorily con trolled by
the imperial police. The visitors were established in a camp in the suburbs.
There they were joined by a stream of pilgrims from Italy, who had crossed
the Adriatic from Apulia and had tramped along the Via Egnatia to Constantinople.
 Peter the Hermit and the main body of the People's Crusade, which now included
thousands of Germans, arrived at Constan tinople about a fortnight after
Walter, on August I. Their pass age across the Balkans had been turbulent
and unfortunate; but the emperor considered that they had been sufficiently
punished for their misdeeds and had sent Peter while he was still at Adrian
ople a gracious message of forgiveness. There seems to have been amongst
the Byzantines a sympathetic interest in these humble, enthusiastic pilgrims
who had left their homes to fight for Christen dom. In spite of their lawlessness
they were well received. The emperor himself was eager to see Peter, who
had already acquired an almost legendary renown. Peter was summoned to the
palace, where he was given handsome presents and good advice. Peter's expedition
was not at all impressive from a military point of view. Alexius therefore
urged him strongly to wait till the organized armies of the crusading princes
 Peter was impressed by the emperor's counsel, but his followers were more
impatient; and in the meantime they alienated sym 
1 On the Turkish and Byzantine situations see chapters V and VI. 

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